Sri Ram to personally argue against Rosmah's bid to remove him as lead prosecutor in corruption trial

·6-min read
Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram leaves the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex February 18, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram leaves the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex February 18, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram is expected to appear personally in the High Court here on June 3 to argue against Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s application to remove him as the lead prosecutor in her corruption trial involving millions of ringgit of alleged bribes, the prosecution said today.

Sri Ram is a former Federal Court judge who became a private lawyer upon his retirement from the judiciary, and is leading the prosecution in Rosmah’s ongoing trial over an alleged bribes-for-contract deal.

Last week, Rosmah had filed two applications at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur seeking to nullify her entire trial, in her bid to be acquitted and seeking once again to remove Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in this trial.

These two applications were filed on May 6, just about a month before Rosmah is set to begin her defence in the trial on June 9.

Today was the case management of these two applications before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, the same judge who is presiding over Rosmah’s trial.

The judge today decided that he will hear the two applications simultaneously on June 3, in order to have time to decide on the applications before the scheduled dates for Rosmah’s defence from June 9 onwards.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Mustaffa P. Kunyalam today informed the court that Sri Ram would lead the prosecution in arguing against Rosmah’s two applications during the June 3 hearing.

“Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram himself will lead the submissions because he said this affects him personally, so he will come and submit, that is my instruction,” he told the court.

This was however met with strong objections by Rosmah’s team of lawyers, who claimed Sri Ram could not come and argue on the application seeking to remove him as the lead prosecutor or to stop him from having any role in Rosmah’s prosecution.

Rosmah’s lawyer Datuk Jagjit Singh claimed: “We’ll be objecting, you cannot argue your own cause, although this is not a judge in his own cause, it affects him personally. It becomes a mockery.”

Jagjit further claimed that this was “highly improper and coming from an ex-judge, he should know better”.

Mustaffa however noted that there was already precedent which would allow Sri Ram to appear in court to lead the prosecution in arguing against Rosmah’s applications, pointing out that private lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was previously allowed to present arguments in court against a challenge to his appointment as prosecutor in Anwar’s Sodomy II case.

“We are guided by previous cases such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s case, Shafee was asked to be disqualified, he submitted on his own, there was no issue, it was decided by a Federal Court judge,” Mustaffa said.

Rosmah’s lawyer Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader meanwhile argued that Sri Ram does not have any locus standi or legal standing to appear for the prosecution on the two applications, as the fiat or appointment of him for the prosecution in Rosmah’s trial is being challenged.

Akberdin said that the previous Anwar case cited where Shafee was allowed to argue against the application challenging his appointment was different, as there was a valid fiat or appointment for Shafee as a prosecutor in Anwar’s case.

( In her applications, Rosmah is claiming that Sri Ram’s appointment letter to be a senior deputy public prosecutor in her case is not valid, due to issues such as it not being issued from the day she was charged but was issued midway of her trial. Rosmah’s application to have the trial nullified also hinges on her argument that Sri Ram’s appointment is defective, and she had in that application asked for her entire trial to be declared a mistrial and for her to be acquitted of all the corruption charges.)

Zaini did not make any decision today on whether Sri Ram would be allowed to appear in court to lead the prosecution in arguing the two applications, but instead asked for both the prosecution and Rosmah’s lawyers to discuss and work on this matter, as he did not want technical issues to “derail” the two applications.

As for Rosmah’s team, her lawyers Jagjit, Akberdin and Azrul Zulkifli Stork are expected to be the ones presenting arguments in court on June 3 on why her trial should be nullified and why Sri Ram should be removed from prosecuting her case.

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex February 18, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex February 18, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Apart from fixing the June 3 hearing date for the two applications, the High Court today also fixed other pre-hearing dates, namely for the prosecution to file its affidavit in reply by May 18, and for Rosmah to file her affidavit in reply by May 25, and for both sides to file in their written submissions by May 28 and replies from both sides by June 2.

Prior to the fixing of these dates, the judge had sought clarification from Rosmah’s lawyer Jagjit on the nature of the two applications.

Jagjit explained that the application to have Rosmah’s trial nullified was the “overriding” application, where the other application to have Sri Ram removed as prosecutor in the case would fall or be academic if the court allows the application to declare her trial null and void.

Jagjit said that if the High Court does not allow Rosmah’s application to have the trial nullified, then the other application to remove Sri Ram as prosecutor in Rosmah’s trial would have to proceed.

In fixing the June 3 hearing date for the two applications, the judge noted his intention to preserve and not disturb the scheduled trial dates from June 9 onwards.

The judge pointed out that there would then be an option to proceed with the trial on June 9 if the two applications are dismissed, and also said that there would be no trial to proceed with on June 9 if the applications are allowed.

The High Court had previously fixed June 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and July 12 and 15 for the hearing for the defence stage of Rosmah’s trial, with Rosmah expected to testify in her own defence.

On February 18, the High Court had ruled that the prosecution had successfully proven a prima facie case against Rosmah by producing credible evidence to prove every element of the three bribery charges which would warrant a conviction if unrebutted.

The High Court had on February 18 ordered Rosmah to enter her defence to answer these charges, and Rosmah had at that time said she would defend herself by giving sworn evidence from the witness stand where she will be subjected to cross-examination.

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